Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd, who’ve just been named producers of the 89th Oscars, have never produced an Academy Awards show. But the two well-connected Hollywood producers did co-chair last January’s PGA Awards, so they’ve learned a few things about handing out trophies in front of a tense, black-tie Hollywood crowd.
Asked what lessons might transfer to the high-profile gig of the Oscar telecast — which ABC will broadcast on Feb. 26 — De Luca tells The Hollywood Reporter: “Get it done in as short amount of time as possible, have as many laughs as possible, have as much glamor and Hollywood style as possible, and let people have a good time. In and out. Nobody gets hurt. Just fun.”
The two longtime friends and colleagues say that after they produced the PGA ceremony, they got a hankering to do the Oscars and started putting out feelers. “We started talking about, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great and make our dream come true to do the Academy Awards?’ We were not shy in letting them know we were interested,” De Luca says. “Jennifer and I have been friends for 25 years and have talked about it for decades. We used to have viewing parties to watch the Oscars with a bunch of friends. Since we’re producers, we’d talk about what we would do. So it’s been in our heads for over 20 years, but we started our campaign to be considered after the PGA Awards.”
The two, however, aren’t ready to tip their hand about what direction the show is likely to take. “We’re in the early stages of coming up with themes, an overarching vision,” De Luca says. “Obviously, the show is meant to recognize excellence in each category and hand out awards, so whatever you do has to work around that. Right now, we’re kind of brainstorming.”
Todd adds: “We’re still at a broad-strokes place — theme, inspiration. We really want to celebrate film on that night. How the movies make you feel. We’re very macro right now, finding our way. But it comes from a love of film and a love of the show.”
Of course, the first order of business will be recruiting a host. “It’s all we’re thinking about now,” De Luca says. Adds Todd, “We just starting thinking about it, obviously, as we hit the ground running. We have our fat list now as we’re talking through ideas.”
Since Todd serves as president of Pearl Street Films, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s production company, what are the odds that Affleck and Damon could be a hosting duo?
“I just got a bunch of old shows and went back and looked at how young they were that year they won for Good Will Hunting,” Todd says. “They’re really excited and supportive of me doing it, so I’m sure I’ll enlist them in some creative way or another. I doubt they’ll be hosting it, though.”
Although both De Luca and Todd are working producers, they say they both have windows in their schedules that allow them to take on the Oscar assignment. Todd’s Live by Night, which Affleck directed and stars in, opens in limited release via Warner Bros. on Dec. 25. And De Luca’s Fifty Shades Darker, which Universal will release on Feb. 10, is currently in postproduction. “I’m not on location somewhere, so I’m geographically here. And I have nothing slated to start from November forward,” De Luca says. “So this can take all my attention.” And, says Todd, “Since there are two of us, we can always cover each other.”
They certainly won’t face a learning curve in terms of knowing how to work together. Todd first met De Luca on her first movie, 1995’s Now and Then, which was released by New Line, where he was then an executive. De Luca went on to supervise the Austin Powers movies Todd produced and greenlighted 2000’s Boiler Room, where she first met Affleck. “Mike was amazing to work for at New Line,” Todd testifies. “So we have a long, great, fun relationship. A lot of similar taste. And hopefully a lot of energy to bring to it.”